At the end of the 2010 drift season, Mike Essa had a tough decision to face. On the verge of a 30th place performance and facing a new tire-to-weight rule going into effect, Essa knew he had to find a way to increase the power in his E92 drift car by 200 HP while dropping 300 pounds in weight, or find a new chassis to build. The quickest way to increase power in the V10 S60 motor was via a supercharger which breaks the bank at nearly $10,000, and would still leave Essa deciding how to reduce weight in the chassis. Another alternative Essa explored was the idea of starting over with a new car, one that would utilize the cheaper-to-modify S54 engine out of the E46 M3. The car you see before you is proof of the decision Essa and his GSR Autosport team made.
Although building a new chassis seems like a more expensive option, the economics ended up working out quite nicely for the team. Essa found a high-mileage automatic Z4 convertible at a local auto auction for an affordable price, the only problems being the torn convertible top and seized transmission. Knowing that the engine and interior was going to be scrapped anyways, Essa jumped on the deal. Shortly after the car arrived in the GSR Autosport garage in Lake Forrest, CA, the car was stripped to the bare shell and prepped for racing. The leather interior and OEM motor went on Craigslist to fund the S54 motor and tubing for the roll cage. Essa got to work soon after, welding up a custom 6-point Formula D spec roll cage and closing all firewall holes per FD regulation. After seeing the success of several other roadsters in the series (namely the 350Z’s of Chris Forsberg and Tyler McQuarrie), Essa decided to enjoy the breeze and keep the top dropped.
Under the hood, Essa went with the straight-6 motor out of the E46 M3. With the well-documented aftermarket support for the motor and several 600+hp builds with stock internals, Essa felt that it would be the perfect balance of weight and power for drifting. Some discussions at last year’s SEMA show in Las Vegas led Essa to team up with Garrett turbochargers, pairing their GTX 35R turbocharger with a custom GSR Autosport turbo manifold, piping, intercooler, and 3.5” exhaust. After tuning the Pectal SQ6 ECU, the setup put down more than 600 HP and nearly 480 lb-ft of torque at a mild 12PSI of boost. Because of Garrett’s trademarked technology, the car builds full boost before 4,500 RPM, much sooner than several other high-horsepower turbocharged BMW applications. Temperatures are cooled via a CSF Race radiator and custom overflow tank, fabricated to fit specially to the E85 chassis. The first time Essa drove the car, he knew the power delivery and weight balance would keep him competitive in Formula D.
Although the power was smooth, Essa knew he still had to put the power to the ground. A 4-speed dog box transmission was mated to a custom GSR Autosport built bell-housing, transferring the power thru a Clutchmasters twin disk clutch and aluminum flywheel to the Driveshaft Shop lightened driveshaft, thru the quickchange rear end, and into the Driveshaft Shop axles. Each axle turns a set of Enkei NT03 wheels in custom 18x10” size out back, and power is put to the pavement thru Nitto NT05 tires 275/35/18 tires. Up front, 18x8.5 Enkei NT03 wheels and 235/40/18 Nitto NT05 tires control the steering angle through each turn. Under the corners, KW Clubsport 2-way adjustable coilovers are paird with Peebee Motorsport control arms and custom GSR control links to keep the car planted through drift.
Essa’s cockpit is an all-business setup which keeps everything simple but allows him to monitor all the vitals as needed. The Pectal ECU is paired to the same style of Pi Omega dash Essa used in his E92 car, which gives him full monitoring and data logging of all vital functions in a simple package. Essa sits in a Sparco Evo seat and grips a Sparco suade steering wheel, and straps in with Sparco 5-point harnesses. When slowing down, Essa’s feet function a custom Wilwood pedal assembly which features separate master cylinders for the clutch, brake, and e-brake. The front end is stabilized with 13” Wilwood 4-piston brakes, while the rear is gripped with a dual 11” 2-piston caliper on each side – one hooked up to the foot brake, and another connected to the custom e-brake handle. Brake bias can be controlled by Essa from the cockpit, allowing him to dial in the right amount of stopping force for each track.
On the outside, the E92 features simple OEM bodywork wrapped in a custom Wraptivo matte graphite vinyl. Although Essa ditched his signature highlighter orange wheels in the interest of staying competitive (Essa felt that brighter colored wheels make it easier for the judges to isolate steering corrections, which this year’s black wheels mask better), he kept the signature orange GSR graphics on the doors. The low profile of the E85 Z4 chassis paired with the matte wrap keep the car looking menacing yet easily repairable if any battle damage occurs.
Essa’s 2011 season has been another teething year, learning the new suspension geometry and dialing in the suspension. The long 3-event East Coast swing didn’t allow time for testing and tuning, but Essa looks to make an impact thru the tail end of the 2011 season and into 2012. Essa has shown in the past that he’s capable of competing with the best in the series, placing Top 4 in Atlanta in 2010 and Top 8 in Las Vegas in his rookie effort of 2009. Several drivers in the FD series have labeled Essa as one of the drivers to watch for in the future, and we’re akin to agree.
Essentials // Owner MIKE ESSA • Location Lake forest, California, USA • Vehicle BMW z4 • power 600whp
Modifications // E85 chassis • S54 engine • Garrett GTX3582R turbo • Pectel SQ6 ECU, Pi Omega dash display • CSF Race radiator • GSR Autosport custom intercooler, exhaust manifold, 3.5” exhaust system, roll cage etc • Synapse waste gate and blow off valve • 4 speed dog box transmission with custom GSR built bellhousing • Vibrant fab materials for the exhaust, manifold, intercooler • Clutchmasters twin disk clutch and aluminum flywheel • Driveshaft shop axles and driveshaft • Quickchange diff • Wilwood 4 piston front brakes 13” rotor, dual 2 piston rear 11” rotor • Wilwood pedal assembly • Sparco seats, steering wheel and safety equipment • Enkei NT03 wheels, 18x8.5” f, 18x10” r • Nitto NT05 tires, 235/40/18 f 275/35/18 r • KW clubsport 2 way adj coilovers • Peebee motorsport front control arms • GSR Autosport control links